The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday called on governments to increase taxes on sugary and alcoholic beverages, lamenting that too few countries use their taxation to incentivize consumers to give up unhealthy habits.
After studying the tax rates for these types of products, the WHO concluded that the average tax rate on "these unhealthy products" was low, and that an increase would improve the health of populations. "The WHO recommends that excise duties apply to all sugar-sweetened beverages and alcoholic beverages," said a statement issued in Geneva.
According to the WHO, 2.6 million people die a year due to alcohol consumption, and more than 8 million due to the consumption of products that are harmful to health. "Imposing taxes on alcohol and sugar-sweetened beverages will reduce these deaths," the WHO said.
The average tax rate is just 6.6% of the price of a soda
This will not only be a deterrent for consumers, but also an incentive to encourage companies to produce healthier beverages. According to the WHO, 108 countries impose taxes on sodas and sugary drinks, but the average tax rate is just 6.6% of the price of a soda. Half of these countries also impose water taxes, which is contrary to WHO recommendations.
"Taxing unhealthy products improves people's health. It has positive impacts on society, fewer diseases and debility, and revenue streams for governments to deliver public services," said Rudiger Krech, WHO's Director for Health Promotion. "In the case of alcohol, taxes help prevent violence and trauma from road (accidents)," he said.
Wine exempt from excise taxes in at least 22 countries
On Tuesday, the WHO published a handbook on alcohol taxation for the organization's 194 member states. A minimum price, combined with a tax, would reduce the consumption of cheap alcohol as well as alcohol-related hospitalizations and deaths, traffic violations, and crime, according to the manual's recommendations.
Some 148 countries impose excise duties on alcoholic beverages. "However, wine is exempt from excise taxes in at least 22 countries, most of them in Europe," the WHO noted. On average, the excise tax on the best-selling beer brand is 17.2 percent, while the excise tax on the most popular brand of the top-selling spirit is 26.5 percent, the WHO said.